By Pat Maurer
Ideal Theatre owner Tom Koch said he doesn’t know what to do with the money…
He’s talking about more than $4,500 raised through donations when Central Michigan Professor Ben Tigner’s historical film about the Purple Gang days in Clare made its world premiere at the theatre this summer.
The Clare County Historical Society thought the funds raised were for their organization, and CCHS President Joe Bradley apologized to donators in the Clare County Review in a Letter to the Editor September 21. “Apparently Ben Tigner mistakenly named the Clare County Historical Society to be the recipient of the donations,” he wrote.
Koch agreed that it was a mistake and explained how it all happened. He said, “Early last spring, when Ben Tigner asked about renting the Theatre for his film debut, I asked him if he intended to have a ‘ticket price’ or donation to see the documentary [about the Purple Gang activities in Clare during prohibition]. He said he was only interested in having his film, a project through Central Michigan University, debut in the City it was about.”
Koch continued, “Since he had to find [and pay for] a digital projector and wasn’t really interested in raising money with the documentary, I offered to donate the use of the theatre and asked if we [the Main Street Board] could use the event as a fundraiser. I explained to Ben that Main Street was involved in ‘historical preservation’.”
He explained that because the Main Street Board/Downtown Development Authority was unable to raise enough funds to pay for the Main Street Program, the group had been discussing ways to raise the needed money.
“I thought this [movie documentary] could be a good way to raise funds for the Main Street Program,” Koch said.
Koch said he presented the idea to members of the Main Street Board/DDA next and suggested they print tickets and promote the event. Then he left on vacation. “Ben evidently confused ‘historical preservation’ with ‘historical society’. And that’s the way he promoted the documentary while I was gone.”
Koch said he wasn’t aware of the confusion until after he returned and after the event when he presented the money collected to the Main Street Board. “The first I knew about it was when Jon Ringelberg [a member of the CCHS] asked me where the money was.”
Koch said he was told that at the next Main Street/DDA Board meeting there would be a vote on what to do with the money, since the Main Street Program was going to be eliminated at the end of the year. “I told them I didn’t raise it [the funds] for the historical society and said I felt if they didn’t want it, it was mine to do with as I felt.”
In the September 21 issue of the Review Bradley wrote, “The Downtown Development Authority, mindful of the ‘mistaken’ newspaper and possibly poster advertising and the belief of the donors, returned the funds to Tom Koch with the recommendation that the donations be given to CCHS. Tom Koch has chosen to keep the donations.”
“No one that I know of contacted the historical society and told them the funds were being raised for them,” Koch responded. “I certainly didn’t. They didn’t help with the event, our Main Street Manager did. I am really upset about them asking for the money.”
Koch said he doesn’t know what he is going to do with the funds yet but is considering donating part of it to the DDA for Christmas Lights in the downtown area.
“I wish I had never done this,” he said. “I thought I was going to help the Main Street Program out.”